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31-year-old man’s prison death remains an 'active investigation’

Roberto Ruiz, 31, died Friday in the Oregon State Penitentiary, less than two months after he was sentenced to prison in Jackson County. The Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office has conducted an autopsy, but further details are under wraps.

An autopsy has been performed on 31-year-old Roberto Ruiz, but information about how the man died in the Oregon State Penitentiary less than two months after being sentenced to prison in Jackson County remains under wraps.

Ruiz died the morning of Nov. 26 in the Salem prison, according to a news release from the Oregon Department of Corrections and an email from DOC Agency Operations Center spokeswoman Betty Bernt.

When asked about the cause and manner of Ruiz’s death, Bernt referred the Mail Tribune to the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office.

“Until that determination is made, the Department of Corrections cannot speculate on cause of death,” Bernt said in an email.

According to an email Monday afternoon from Oregon State Police Capt. Stephanie Bigman, who spoke for the Medical Examiners Office, an autopsy was performed on Ruiz but Bigman provided no further details because Ruiz’s death is “currently an active investigation.”

Marion County Circuit Court records showed no charges filed since Ruiz’s death that would indicate a homicide.

According to an affidavit filed by Oregon State Police, who arrested Ruiz in Medford following a Sept. 12 vehicle chase, Ruiz was wanted by the San Bernardino County, California Sheriff’s Office on a hit-and-run charge.

“I had also been told by the U.S. Marshals that Ruiz was associated with up to six recent shootings in California including a homicide,” the OSP affidavit added, about the chase that ended in the 1300 block of Fortune Drive in Medford.

Ruiz pleaded no contest in Jackson County to a charge of felon in possession of a firearm for having a .38 Special revolver during the Sept. 12 chase, and he was sentenced Oct. 11 to 24 months in prison.

Ruiz was housed in the Oregon State Penitentiary, which has approximately 2,000 inmates at multiple security levels. Ruiz was scheduled to be released Sept. 11, 2023.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.